APB: Monday 9PM on FOX – Change the Channel
FOX’s APB is a zeitgeist show in the worst possible way. No doubt when it was pitched and even produced, its central notion that inner-city crime could be cured only by an arrogant white billionaire was meant to invoke Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, but now that’s not the cultural icon who comes to mind, and a show that was never going to be more than a routine procedural in any case appears to be making a real-world statement about contemporary politics, a stance that shifts it from forgettable to arguably offensive.
The concept and dynamic couldn’t be more basic. Gideon Reeves (Justin Kirk, an actor who’s made a career out of playing assholes with a heart in shows like Weeds, Animal Practice and Tyrant) is a tech tycoon who unwisely detours into a Bad Neighborhood in Chicago to buy a single cigarette. Before he’s even managed to light it, his best friend is murdered before his eyes, and he promptly devotes all his efforts into buying the rights to police the district privately, and then outfitting the local cops and citizenry with drones, tasers, apps and algorithms. The streetwise police scoff at him, but soon enough must reluctantly acknowledge that his tech is the future of policing, while he comes to realize the value of old-fashioned show leather police work. By the end of the pilot, not only has he caught his friend’s killer, but all of Chicago (and presumably soon enough the world) is clamoring for his divine guidance. It’s like Robocop without the scathing social satire.
APB hit bumps en route to the screen, as original creator David Slack was ousted and replaced by Burn Notice‘s Matt Nix (the latter gets a “developed by” credit on the series, and Slack and Nix share the pilot script credit). Nix and Trey Calloway will co-showrun going forward, and perhaps in time there will be more substance here than is evident from the opening hour. The pilot, though, is strictly by the numbers. Kirk underscores the Iron Man linkage by all but doing a Robert Downey, Jr imitation, and the only other actor given any kind of a character is Natalie Martinez as old-school (and hot) Officer Murphy, who bears the burden of being the grudging adherent to Reeves’s cause and is promoted to Detective by the end of the pilot. Director Len Wiseman tries to provide a sense of urgency, but the addition of (marginal) CG drones to familiar tenement chase scenes doesn’t increase the excitement.
It’s possible that APB will prove itself more than it appears to be, but there’s little argument in this era of nonstop Peak TV to give it weeks of attention in order to find out whether it can move from a C-level procedural with doubtful politics to a B-. To say that it’s aptly programmed as the mate to FOX’s tired reboot of 24 isn’t a compliment to either of them.